Monday, January 31, 2011

Think Outside the Box

I had originally intended to review "Fat Vampire" with this blog entry but I got sick. While I was sick I changed my mind. So now you have to wait a little longer. I also have a short interview with Sean Beaudoin, author of "You Killed Wesley Payne" planned in the coming weeks. So check back again often. In the meantime enjoy this review of an unexpected book.

"The Danger Box"

By Blue Balliett
For ages 8 - 12
More of a character study than a mystery patient readers will enjoy the details as 12-year-old Zoomy Chamberlain's life is turned upside down when a mysterious box that may or may not be connected to Charles Darwin ends up in his possession. Rated 3.75 (tragedy, special needs, creationism vs.evolution)

In the 1980’s a small, but highly valuable notebook was stolen. “The Danger Box” explores a “what if” scenario using this notebook as a catalyst. Like all of Balliett’s books there is a mystery, a real town as the backdrop, and a great deal of character development.

Zoomy Chamberlain is a 12-year-old boy with bad eyesight and OCD, who lives with his grandparents. When the notebook comes into his possession his life is turned upside down. He becomes friends with a very loud girl, his grandparents’ house is burned down, a stranger appears in town and Zoomy discovers a great deal about Charles Darwin. The mystery of the notebook -- Darwin’s field notebook -- is really of little consequence. Although there is some discussion of evolution versus creationism it cursory. The pacing is painfully slow and since the mystery is a mere afterthought the story hinges on character development. There is no shortage of character development in Balliett's books. this one focuses on Zoomy and his grandparents. It is primarily a character study of a special needs child coming of age, discovering the world around him and finding strength within himself.

As a Blue Balliett fan (I would recommend all three of her other books to anyone) I was disappointed in this book. It's very well written,but it just left me feeling a little flat. Maybe it's just me or maybe she just set the bar too high with her previous books.